UVa Law Student Speaks Out About Accidental Shooting

May 1, 2014

For University of Virginia law student Madison Whitmore, her last few weeks of school have not gone how she expected.

On Monday, April 21, Whitmore and her boyfriend came back to his apartment at 1800 Jefferson Park Avenue after eating out.

"I stopped at the door to deadbolt it, to make things safer, and I heard a shrieking bang," said Whitmore.

According to police, two UVa. Fourth years living across the hall had accidentally fired an AK-47 firearm inside their apartment. The bullet sliced through both apartment doors, a bike, and came to rest in a wall just missing Whitmore.

"When I looked and saw the gunshot and saw how close it was to me, that was hard to swallow," Whitmore said.

The two 22-year-old students were charged with a misdemeanor of reckless handling of a firearm. Three days after the incident, a trial was held in Charlottesville General District Court. Prosecutor Joe Platania said the judge didn't find enough evidence, beyond reasonable doubt that it wasn't simply an accident, and not a criminal act. He dismissed the charges.

"I may not be a lawyer yet, but I know the law pretty well by now," Whitmore said. "To send an AK-47 round into and occupied apartment; there are two other apartment complexes right there, someone could have been walking home and hit, it wasn't just us."

Despite her frustration over the legal preceding Whitmore feels she has gained something from the experience.

"Dealing with being a victim, waiting for something to happen and knowing what it feels like when something very unjust happens to you. As much as that doesn't make it okay for other people to go through, at least I can relate," said Whitmore.

According to Platania, during the trial a UVa. dean asked the students to hand over the AK-47 and three other firearms to University Police, and they agreed to do so.

The male students did not respond to attempts for a comment.

While University spokesperson McGregor McCance could not speak about the incident in particular, he said the University Judiciary Committee (UJC) is responsible for enforcing the University's 12 Standards of Conduct, which apply on and off-Grounds. McCance said The UJC can impose a range of sanctions including expulsion.

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